Fair Trade Chocolate Trumps Hershey’s this Halloween

The largest candy company in the United States has recently come under fire not for the sugar-laden, teeth-rotting treats they sling at children, but rather for the children they employ to do the slinging.  The Hershey Food Corporation may have a corporate headquarters located in aptly named Hershey, Pennsylvania, but the cocoa beans that are harvested to make the chocolate for which they are internationally famous can be found in Ghana and Ivory Coast in Africa, along with underage and exploited workers.  A recent report released by Tulane University’s Payson Center for International Development cited Hershey as one of the companies responsible for the endurance of child labor in these countries, and called for them to embrace fair trade practices that would help to bring about the end of child labor in the cocoa industry.  But until they take up the call, there are several other organizations willing to adopt fair trade practices when it comes to making chocolate.  And you may want to use your consumer dollars to send a message to Hershey this Halloween: that the exploitation of children is too frightening for even this spooky holiday. In fact, it really couldn’t be easier.  Hershey is literally the only U.S. manufacturer of chocolate that has refused to adopt any type of labor certification (meaning their practices have been approved by an organization that screens for abuses of labor rights).  Even competitors like Nestle, Mars, and Kraft have made a token effort to control the chain of supply of cocoa to their manufacturing plants (with certifications provided by either Rainforest Alliance, which requires that at least 30% of primary ingredients be produced without the use of child labor, or UTZ Certified, which doesn’t allow child labor, but also doesn’t necessarily guarantee farmers a fair wage).

A much better choice would be to purchase chocolate from companies like Alter Eco, Cocoa-Zen, and Divine Chocolate (just to name a few), all of which are certified at the highest level by an organization called Fair Trade Certified.  This collective upholds the highest standards when it comes to labor rights, prohibiting child labor (along with forced labor and discrimination) and rallying for collective bargaining rights.  In addition, farmers who receive certification are given a guaranteed price for their produce.  This ensures that no exploitation is needed to harvest the cocoa beans that go into the chocolates Americans love to buy.

But how do you find these sweet (and labor friendly) treats?  While Hershey’s candy can be found on every grocery-store shelf in the country, some of the alternative brands listed above can be a lot more difficult to secure.  Alter Eco products can be purchased online and in natural food stores (such as Whole Foods Market).  Unfortunately, their chocolates only come in bar form, not bite size, making them better for everyday than for Halloween.  Offerings from Cocoa-Zen can also be purchased online and they do have an assortment of individually wrapped items.  Divine Chocolate is unfortunately unavailable for purchase via their website, but they do produce bite size candy and you can use their handy store locator to find their wares locally.  Alter Eco and Divine can also be purchased via Amazon.

While it may take a little more time to secure Halloween candy that eschews the use of child labor in its production, it can be done.  Not only that: it should be done.  Mega corporations like Hershey will continue to exploit child labor (or carry on other unethical business practices across the globe) as long as they can make money doing it.  As soon as public disapproval begins to cut into their bottom line, they will do whatever is necessary to regain income, even if it means paying a little more for their beans in order to become fair trade certified.  So use your purchasing power this Halloween to ensure that no child will benefit at the expense of another.  Embrace fair trade by boycotting Hershey and buying just about any other brand.

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